If we were to describe our lives using the metaphor of fire, we would recognize that there comes a time when the flames have settled into a comfortable glow. The fire is steady, burning warmly, and in no danger of going out anytime soon. There is plenty of fuel to add to it, but no rush to do so. A bank of coals lies at the base of the fire, white hot and powerful. The fire has been well tended and is now ready to give back great heat and light for some time to come.
This is a book for people who are moving into and through the stage of life characterized by that fire. It is for people who are ready to stoke the wisdom gained in the first half of their lives to burn with a brighter sense of purpose in the second half.
The book presents a new model of vital aging for people entering into and moving through the second half of their lives. We want to emphasize the "growing" aspect of growing older and highlight the ways in which we ascend, rather than descend, in the second half of life. In doing so, we aim to retire the concept of retirement as it is seen today.
To claim one's place at the fire means to live one's life on purpose. When we claim our place at the fire, we enter into the circle of vital elders who have been the source of wisdom in society since time immemorial. We do this by courageously reexamining and rediscovering who we are, where we belong, what we care about, and what our life's purpose is.
We believe that the second half of life offers us unique opportunities for growing whole, not old. When we claim our place at the fire—by recalling our stories, refinding our place, renewing our calling, and reclaiming our purpose—we ultimately embrace the deepest expression of who we really are. And so, we invite you to join us at the fire to explore how to become "new elders." It is time for those of us in the second half of life to look beyond simply defining ourselves as old. We know we are old. New elders accept this and yet continue to actively seek new life and vitality. And so, it is our hope that what follows can provide you with a vital new model of aging and retirement for you, your loved ones, and for the world we share together.
Richard J. Leider
David A. Shapiro